A life threatening parasitic infection that is caused by the female Anopheles mosquito. Infection results in symptoms such as fever, headache and chills. These usually appear 10 to 15 days after being bitten by the mosquito. Malarial symptoms are cyclical with fever and chills increasing towards evening. A blood test is used to identify the malarial parasite (plasmodium). Medical help is crucial to treat the illness! Dengue on the other hand which has seen an increase in incidence is caused by the Aedes mosquito.
There is no vaccine to prevent against malaria, though a number of vaccines and cures are being studied worldwide. The best strategy then is prevention.
Prevention of malaria:
The World Health Organization propagates vector control and recommends the following to prevent the spread of mosquitoes:
This stands for: Long-lasting insecticidal nets and is used in various public health programmes on a wide scale. Almost every Indian household has the ever-popular mosquito net, and while we may take them for granted, they actually help by keeping us away from mosquito bites. The net is more effective if it is pre-treated with an insecticide solution (like DEET: N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide or diethyltoluamide, is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents).
2. Indoor spraying with residual insecticides:
Indoor residual spraying (IRS) with insecticides helps to reduce malaria. The insecticide used is effective for 3 to 6 months. The indoor spraying should have regular follow ups depending on the solution used and the mosquito infestation rate. The monsoon season is a time when mosquitoes breed and spraying at this time is crucial.
IRS works by spraying the surfaces of a house like the walls with a residual insecticide. This helps keep mosquitoes at bay and even kills those that come in contact with a treated surface. While other preventive measures need to be in place, IRS is a tool to prevent further transmission of malaria. This can be done by those dealing in pest control.
3. Antimalarial drugs
Chemoprophylaxis is a treatment that is given to prevent a person’s blood from getting infected with the infection. In areas that carry high infestation rates, the WHO recommends intermittent preventive treatment in 3 doses for pregnant women after the first trimester.
Mosquitoes breed and lay their larvae in water, it is important to cover tanks, cisterns wells etc to prevent mosquitoes from using them as breeding grounds. Old tires should be discarded along with any other containers that may tend to collect water after the rains. In addition, avoid pouring too much water into your potted plants. This provides the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, drain off the excess water and ensure that water does not collect or pool anywhere. Drains near the home should be cleaned to prevent water from stagnating.
5. Other preventive methods:
These days we have mosquito repellent creams, gels, lotions, roll on, patches etc. These helps prevent mosquito bites, some contain citronella which is said to be a natural method of keeping mosquitoes at bay. In addition, it is important to have wire mesh fitted onto window screens. Try and close the windows at dawn and dusk, which is the time when the mosquitoes (vectors) are most active. Plants kept at home should not be allowed to have pooled or stagnant water in their pots. For plants that grow in water, the water needs to be changed regularly. Buckets of water in the bathroom need to be used regularly and filled with fresh water. Any stored water should be kept covered. Long sleeved and protective clothing may also help prevent against bites.
Treatment for a mosquito infection is important and should not be ignored. After a blood test when malaria or dengue is diagnosed the following is important:
1. Be well hydrated: Fever and vomiting can cause dehydration leading to weakness and delayed recovery. Fluids help boosting hydration levels while also replenishing the electrolytes lost.
2. Painkillers: These may help ease discomfort caused by the fever and body pains.
3. Medication: This will be prescribed depending on the type and severity of the infection.
4. Blood transfusion: In severe cases, a blood transfusion may be required, this may be the case if more than 10% of the blood cells are infected.
As the old saying goes- Prevention is better than cure. This rings true in preventing malaria too! Practical, planned steps can go a long way in preventing mosquito bites. This World Malaria Day let us aim to: Stay Protected and Stay Safe!
With inputs from:
4. http://www.goodknight.in/malaria/?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=GK Search_Malaria&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIj82J6t3D2gIVCQ4rCh0bSwxmEAMYASAAEgITe_D_BwE